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Tech Article

BMW E28 5-Series Speedometer

Last Updated: 05/04/2021
Parts Group: Speedometer
I recently sold a BMW E28 VDO-brand speedometer to a customer, who installed it and learned that the odometer and trip meter don’t work. She was very gracious about it, and she returned the part and got a full refund including shipping.

Today, my tech took that speedometer apart while I watched.

The speedometer is normally inside a white protective case, and held in place by four screws. After removing these, the speedometer can be lifted out.

The gears are under a transparent protective plastic cover, held in place by two screws. After removing these, the cover can be lifted off to expose the gears.

The small black gear meshes with a large black gear wheel. Attached directly to that large wheel, on the same axis, is a small gear. They are one piece of plastic so that as the larger gear turns, the smaller one must turn with it. The smaller-gear half of that large black wheel meshes with a similarly-structured orange gear wheel, and that in turn meshes with a medium-sized black gear.

Due to these gear wheels, the small black gear can turn rapidly (and it does, being attached to an electric motor inside the speedometer) and the reduction effect means that the large black gear turns more slowly, and the orange gear turns more slowly yet, and the medium-sized black gear turns more slowly yet. Due to this, the fast motion of the motor is translated into slow motion for the odometer and trip meter number display wheels.

The medium-sized black gear meshes with a medium-sized white gear that drives both the odometer and trip meter.

Turning the white gear with my finger made me able to move the trip meter number display wheel and the odometer number display wheel; the former turns quickly and as one might expect, the latter turns ten times more slowly.

On this particular speedometer, the small black gear fell apart into multiple pieces when it was pulled off its ribbed metal shaft. The large black gear, with which the small gear used to mesh, was damaged too: some teeth were missing.

I am not aware of replacement gear sets being available from VDO (though I have just sent them a message, asking) but regardless, some aftermarket vendors do offer replacement gears, and my tech has just bought a replacement gear set with which to repair this speedometer.
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